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Ergonomic Office Tips for Preventing RSI

25 April 2024

A major problem for many office workers - especially those who spend a large portion of their day at their desks - is the risk of developing RSI.

In fact, until 2019, about 1.8 million workers developed an RSI every year. Ever since COVID sent most of us to our homes, these numbers have only been increasing because of how the ergonomic standards set in many offices are not followed in remote spaces.

That said, while there has definitely been a spike in cases, there are also ways to prevent it. It takes a bit of conscious effort and consideration, but it is definitely doable.

Let's look at some ergonomic office tips for preventing RSI.

How to Prevent RSI

RSI stands for repetitive strain or stress injury and refers to pain that is caused by repeatedly putting the same area of the body under some kind of stress. This could be active sports that take a toll on your body but can even be very basic things like assembly line work - or typing. If it's repetitive and puts your body in a position considered unnatural, it can cause an RSI.

The good thing is that this problem doesn't usually last very long, and if you take proper care, it may even recover on its own. However, the best-case outcome would be to avoid an RSI altogether. Let's look at some of the ways you can make that happen.

Keeping a Neutral Position

Because the main cause of any RSI is putting some kind of strain on the body, the best way to avoid it is to keep your body in a neutral position as much as possible. Of course, this is not easy, and with all the work we have to do, can even seem impossible at times. But our health is importance, so it's also just as important to make sure we make an effort.

For desk jobs, the most common cause of RSI is the way you hold your mouse or type. When typing, you should make sure your wrists are in a neutral position. That is, when you place them on the keyboard or mouse, you shouldn't be bending them in any direction - whether that's towards your thumbs or pinkies, or up or down.

Typing with your wrist in any position besides the neutral one puts you at risk of RSI and even some more complex conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome which take a longer time to recover from.

You may need to adjust your workstation to allow for a more neutral position. You might have to adjust the keyboard so your wrists don't bend up or down, and you may want to invest in a wrist rest as well.

Of course, don't forget the mouse! Most people develop RSI in their mouse hands because of the way mouse usage requires you to bend your wrist. A wrist pad or an ergonomic mouse can help you out with this, but for the most part, you just need a little bit of consciousness around your positioning to make sure it's as neutral as possible.

You can also try to minimize your mouse usage by opting for keyboard shortcuts instead.

Taking Breaks

One thing that's true for almost any office worker is underestimating the importance and benefit of breaks. After all, what can ten minutes do except ruin your tempo?

If you've been injured, the most common piece of advice you'd hear about recovery is to take it easy and give yourself rest. Well, you don't need to be injured to do that. Why wait until the RSI develops to take breaks? You should be taking them anyway so that you can prevent the RSI in the first place.

The general recommendation is to take a 10-15 minute break after every hour, and a shorter one (about 5 minutes) every half an hour. This is not just helpful with preventing repetitive stress injuries but also helps with rejuvenating your brain.

The average person can only focus on something for about 15 minutes at a time before they start losing interest. Forcing yourself to pay attention when your brain is not up to it will only serve to burn you out and make you more tired than you already are. Taking short breaks in the middle won't break your tempo, but actually help you work better and more productively.

Of course, being able to prevent RSI will also make you more productive, because you won't be cradling an injured part of your body while also trying to meet that deadline. That said, the breaks you take can't just be Work 2.0.

When you take a break, take a break. Stop looking at the screen, get up, and walk around a bit to get your circulation back to normal and ease some of the tension out of your muscles. If you think you'll forget, put timers and alarms to remind yourself. Breaks are important!

Maintaining Posture

Our parents repeated the importance of good posture to us all the time, but most of us didn't follow it - and look where it got us!

Bad posture is one of the leading contributors to RSI. Make sure you check and correct your posture every time you notice that you're sitting incorrectly. That is, your feet should be flat on the floor with your thighs parallel to it. Your knees should be slightly below or in line with your hips.

Your arms should be pressed to your body with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, and your neck should not be bent up or down to look at whatever you're doing.

Without the right posture, you'd be straining your body as you work, putting you at greater risk for RSI. In fact, a very large majority of RSI cases ever since desk jobs became common have been due to the problem of posture.

Adjust your workstation to fit your body, not the other way around!

Stand Up

One thing most of us overlook when it comes to protecting our bodies is the fact that we spend all day sitting when we're really not designed to do so. Sitting for long stretches doesn't just put you at risk of all the problems that come with a sedentary lifestyle (like obesity and cardiovascular disease), but also makes you more likely to have bad posture and cause strain on various parts of your body.

This becomes a problem when you consider that desk jobs require you to stay seated all the time just to get your work done. You'd be in trouble if you didn't meet your deadlines, but you also don't want to put your body and health at risk.

The good thing is that you don't have to! There are plenty of ways to get yourself enough non-sedentary time during the day (although of course, not the ideally low amount we need). For one thing, taking breaks ties in with this.

By taking breaks and walking around every once in a while, you give yourself the room to minimize the amount of time you spend sitting. While not much, it's still better than those extra 5-15 minutes of sitting you could add to your day.

Another option is to change the workstation you're using. Because of all the awareness around how sitting can be dangerous when done in excess, there are plenty of efforts made in the direction of reducing the amount of time we spend sitting.

One of these options could be a sit-stand desk, but these are quite pricey. A better option is to use a sit-stand workstation that could sit on top of your existing desk and serve the purpose just as well.

AlcoveRiser Standing Desk Converters M7

Bothered about your sitting hours? We understand.

The Flexispot AlcoveRiser Standing Desk Converters M7 is your best bet when it comes to improving your workstation and minimizing your time spent sitting.

The design for this workstation is minimalist and is created with versatility and convenience. You don't have to worry about whether or not it'll fit in with the rest of your decor, because it definitely will. It also comes with integrated attachable accessories so you can get your things organized and within reach while you work.

The workstation has a spacious keyboard tray so you can keep your keyboard or even larger devices like a 17-inch laptop. The up-and-down movement is pretty straightforward, using a gas spring hovering system that allows for versatility and easier movement. The X structure and design also make it a lot more stable - not just to move, but also when it's standing stationary at an elevated height.

The sit-stand movement is also very easy to manage. All you have to do is use a single handle and you can adjust your workspace as you see fit.

While it does require some effort - especially if we're used to sitting (with bad posture) - it's very important to incorporate practices into our lives that can help protect us from RSI.